Newspaper website rapped by PCC over suicide story

The Press Complaints Commission has upheld a complaint against a newspaper website which published ‘specific details’of how a local teacher electrocuted himself.

The PCC upheld the complaint against www.wigantoday.co.uk, the Johnston Press-owned website shared by the Wigan Evening Post, Wigan Observer and several weekly local titles.

The complaint was made by the teacher’s husband under clause 5 of the Editors’ Code of Conduct (intrusion into shock or grief). The rule was expanded in 2006 to advise journalists that ‘when reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used”. This is the first case adjudicated by the PCC under the new rule.

A spokesman for the PCC said: ‘While newspapers are entitled to report on proceedings such as inquests, the Code’s requirements are over and above what the law allows. On this occasion, the commission concluded that the there was too much detail in the articles and upheld the complaint.”

Clause five was changed after the Samaritans charity gave evidence gave evidence to the code of practice committee. Samaritans chief executive Dominic Rudd said: ‘I am pleased to see that the PCC has upheld the complaint for precisely the reason the new clause was entered into the PCC Code last year – to make sure that there is no excessive reporting of suicide methods which might lead to copycat suicides. The PCC’s decision shows they are sincere in their desire to make reporting of suicide cases responsible.”

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